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The 66 books in the Bible are considered sacred and authoritative because they are believed to be divinely inspired by God. The idea is that God, being the ultimate author of the Bible, communicated his message and will through human authors, who acted as vessels for God’s words. This is reflected in verses such as Matthew 4:4, which states that “all Scripture is breathed out by God,” and 2 Timothy 3:16, which says that “all Scripture is God-breathed.”
According to this belief, the human authors of the books in the Bible were not the originators of the content they wrote, but rather they were moved by God to write what they did (such as in 2 Samuel 23:2). It is believed that the Holy Spirit guided the writers to produce a message that is consistent with God’s will and purposes.
Therefore, the books that are included in the Bible are not there because people chose to include them, but because God determined that they should be there. The people of God simply recognized which books were divinely inspired and preserved them for posterity. In this sense, the authority of the Bible does not come from human beings, but from God himself.
The determination of which books would be included in the Bible as divinely inspired was a process that took place over time. The criteria used to determine the inspiration of a particular book included a consideration of several factors, or “fingerprints,” that indicated its divine origin. These factors included:
- Authorship by a prophet of God, such as Moses (Exodus 4:1-9) or Paul (1 Corinthians 9:1)
- Confirmation by acts of God, as seen in Hebrews 1:1 and 2:3-4
- Consistency with other revelations and facts about God, as seen in Deuteronomy 18:20-22
- The ability to edify and strengthen the faith of believers, as seen in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12
- Acceptance and collection by the people of God, indicating its widespread recognition as a divinely inspired work.
Through this process, the books that were considered to have the “fingerprints” of God and to be in line with His will and message were preserved and eventually collected into the canon of the Bible. These 66 books, therefore, are considered to be divinely inspired and authoritative for the beliefs and practices of Christians.
The books commonly referred to as the “Apocrypha,” or the “missing books” of the Old Testament, are not considered part of the canon of the Old Testament for several reasons.
Firstly, unlike the canonical books, the apocryphal books do not claim to be inspired by God, and some even explicitly disclaim being prophetic. This is in contrast to the canonical books, which make explicit claims to divine inspiration.
Secondly, the apocryphal books were written between 250 B.C. and the first century A.D., a time when, according to Judaism, the Spirit of prophecy had already departed from Israel.
Thirdly, the Jewish historian Josephus provided a list of the authentic books of the Jewish Old Testament, which corresponds exactly with the 39 books of the Old Testament in use today. Furthermore, Judaism has never accepted the apocryphal books as part of its own Bible.
Fourthly, neither Jesus nor the apostles ever cited any of the apocryphal books as inspired in the New Testament. Additionally, most of the church fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian church did not accept these books as inspired.
Finally, the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 to include the apocryphal books in its canon was based on political and theological considerations rather than on the criteria of divine inspiration. This decision was made by the wrong group (Christians, not Jews) at the wrong time (sixteenth century A.D.) and for the wrong reasons (to support the doctrine of prayers for the dead in response to the Reformation).
For these reasons, the books of the Apocrypha are not considered to be part of the canon of the Old Testament and are not considered authoritative for the beliefs and practices of Christians.
The books of the New Testament were written by apostles and prophets of God, who were confirmed as such by acts of God, such as miracles and supernatural events. These books were immediately accepted as part of the growing canon of Scripture and were publicly read and circulated by the first-century church.
For example, Luke acknowledged that other narratives about the life of Jesus were written in his time, and the Apostle Paul cited Luke’s Gospel as “Scripture” in 1 Timothy 5:18. Similarly, Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as “Scripture” on par with the Old Testament. The early Christian fathers, beginning in the first century, collected all 27 books of the New Testament and cited almost every verse and over 36,000 quotations, demonstrating the widespread recognition of these books as divinely inspired.
From the second century A.D. onward, there were collections of these books and translations into other languages, such as Syriac and Old Latin. Today, all major branches of Christendom, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants, accept all 27 books of the New Testament as the inspired Word of God, alongside the 39 books of the Old Testament. This widespread recognition of the New Testament books as inspired by God reflects their central role in the beliefs and practices of Christians.
The apocryphal books of the second and third centuries A.D. are not considered to be part of the canon of the Bible and are universally rejected by the Christian church. There are several reasons for this rejection, including:
Lack of apostolic authorship: These books are not written by the apostles whose names they bear, since the apostles died in the first century.
Contradictory doctrine: The apocryphal books contain many heretical and doctrinally incorrect teachings, which are at odds with the teachings of the Bible.
Improbable childhood accounts: They contain highly embellished accounts of the childhood of Jesus, which conflict with John’s statement that Jesus did not perform any miracles until he was an adult.
Fabricated stories: The apocryphal books contain highly embellished accounts of Gospel stories, indicating that they were later fabrications and not based on eyewitness accounts.
Lack of recognition by the Christian Church: The apocryphal books are rejected by every section of official Christendom, indicating a lack of widespread recognition and acceptance as divinely inspired works.
Note the following statements by scholars on these noncanonical books:
- “There is no question of any one’s having excluded them from the New Testament: they have done that for themselves.”—M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, pages xi, xii.
- “We have only to compare our New Testament books as a whole with other literature of the kind to realize how wide is the gulf which separates them from it. The uncanonical gospels, it is often said, are in reality the best evidence for the canonical.”—G. Milligan, The New Testament Documents, page 228.
- “It cannot be said of a single writing preserved to us from the early period of the Church outside the New Testament that it could properly be added to-day to the Canon.”—K. Aland, The Problem of the New Testament Canon, page 24.
For these reasons, the apocryphal books of the second and third centuries A.D. are not considered to be part of the canon of the Bible and are not considered authoritative for the beliefs and practices of Christians.
In summary, the 66 books of the commonly accepted canon of the Bible are considered to be divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant. This is because these books are believed to have been inspired by God, written by prophets of God, collected by the people of God, and preserved by the providence of God for the spiritual benefit of believers. This is reflected in verses such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which state that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
These 66 books are considered to have a unique and authoritative status among the various books and writings that have been produced over the centuries. They are believed to contain the message and will of God, and to provide guidance and instruction for the beliefs and practices of Christians. As such, they are considered to be the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.
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